The importance of innovation is oft-discussed – in media, books and, perhaps most importantly, in the boardroom. What’s little discussed, however, is how to execute on that innovation and who to partner with to get it done. At Blue Shield of California (BSC), a symbiotic relationship has formed between the finance and innovation teams, highlighting the benefits of working closely together for business efficiency. This month I spoke with BSC CFO, Sandra Clarke, to learn more about her perspective on innovation, how she works with the chief innovation officer and why finance and innovation ultimately go hand in hand.
Jeffrey Thomson: You recently assumed the role of CFO at Blue Shield of California (BSC), previously serving as CFO at Daiichi Sankyo’s U.S. subsidiary, a global pharmaceutical company. What do you like about working in the healthcare industry? What unique challenges does the finance and accounting function face in this competitive, highly regulated industry?
Sandra Clarke: I really like being able to contribute to the health and well-being of our society and the opportunity to innovate in an industry that touches every person in our country. Our mission at Blue Shield is to provide access to high quality healthcare that is worthy of our family and friends, and that is sustainably affordable. We have a lot of work to do to achieve that goal. But I like a challenge, and I’m energized by what lies ahead.
Being part of a nonprofit healthcare organization also really resonated with me. We are driven by the needs of our members, not the returns for shareholders. We voluntarily cap our net income at two percent of revenue, returning anything above that to our customers and the community. From a finance perspective, this somewhat limits our access to capital for the investments we need to make to change the way care is delivered, but there are also benefits. Because we are focused on the satisfaction of our members and not on the satisfaction of investors, we can make long-term investments that will improve the member experience, healthcare quality and affordability without having to worry as much about their initial impact on quarterly earnings.